Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bistro Soliel: a review

Bistro Soliel
173 Mercer St.
Hightstown, NJ

Overall review: very good to excellent

Bistro Soliel opened last summer in charming Hightstown. On a recent Saturday night visit, we made reservations and arrived about quarter to seven. The hosts are friendly and seat diners as quickly as possible. This being a true neighborhood place, we knew folks at several of the tables around us, waving and greeting them as we went to our table. The restaurant is BYO, and our wine was quickly whisked off to the kitchen to arrive opened and with the appropriate number of glasses. Servers are pleasant and knowledgeable, reciting lists of specials (without prices) and any of-the-day items from memory. Warm, light foccacia-style bread and fair olive oil are provided, and the servers are very fast about taking orders.

And then the wait begins.

Almost every visit I've made to this lovely, pleasant place, we've waited for our food. Please don't misunderstand me- I really mean waited. At least a half hour for appetizers, well in excess of an hour for entrees. The place is always busy, and you will wait. Make sure to call ahead for reservations, bring an extra bottle of wine, take the offered second basket of bread, and prepare to be there a while. You have time to notice the suns on each bright yellow wall, the decorative lighting, the traffic on the street outside. You have time to chat with your friends and family. You will wait.

You won't be disappointed.

On our most recent visit, we enjoyed two boneless short rib appetizers; a special, where the tender meat was brazed in Guinness (celebrating the St. Patrick's season) and the crispy tostadas ($9). The two dishes were very different in flavor but both melted in your mouth. Our dining companion remarked that the cole slaw served with the Guinness ribs was possibly even better than the ribs themselves. Very successful dishes both.

Our entrees were very good as well. A special of the night, sea bass on a parsnip puree with spinach and a green curry sauce, was perfectly cooked and a surprisingly good combination. (If I wasn't afraid of embarrassing myself, I would've licked the plate clean. I scraped it pretty well with a spoon to get every last morsel.) Leg of lamb with pearl onions and peas ($18) was a lovely spring dish, a slightly sweet sauce balanced nicely with the slight tinge of gaminess that comes from good lamb. The evening's lasagna, portobello mushroom and spinach with an Alfredo sauce ($13), was a huge slab of thick pasta sheets and very flavorful fillings. Our friends raved about the shrimp & asparagus risotto ($16) and the stuffed pork loin ($13).

This is the best restaurant in the Hightstown area for food. The flavors are wonderful and everything is expertly prepared. The staff is professional, the atmosphere a nice, slightly upscale/casual neighborhood restaurant, and the decor attractive. The prices are good. The only quibble I have is the extraordinary wait for your dinners to arrive; But, they're truly worth the wait when they do.

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